Paleosuchus palpebrosus is a small crocodilian in the alligator family. They have strong body armour on both the dorsal (upper) and ventral (lower) sides.

The head has an unusual shape for a crocodilian, with a dome-shaped skull and a short smooth, concave snout with an upturned tip, the shape rather resembling the head of a dog. Adults are dark brownish-black with a dark brown head while juveniles are brown with black bands.

  • Scientific name : Paleosuchus palpebrosus
  • Distribution : Northern-Central South America
  • Average Size : 1.3 m (4.2 ft)
  • Life Span : 35 years or more
  • Difficulty : Advanced


Housing is dependent on size and number of animals. New hatchlings can be kept in a large vivarium setup (minimum 20 gallon long) with approximately ¾ water and ¼ land ratio. Premade semi-aquatic tub setups are also easy to use and clean. As the animal grows, they should be staged up in enclosures at minimum four times their length. A fair sized adult enclosure would be 4 x 4 x 1.5 meters (13 x 13 x 5 feet). All specimens should be able to access water and land at any time.


Substrate can be small rocks, or dirt overlaid by small/medium rock or mulch. Natural plants are great for cover and aesthetics to provide a less stressful habitat. Some crocodilians like to dig, so you may have to play it by ear with your individual specimen.

Lighting – Heating

Natural UV lighting is not needed if diet and temperature are appropriate, but for most people it is the easiest way to ensure proper temperatures and health. I have found ambient temperatures fluctuating between night and day between 24-35 °C (75-95 °F) to be optimal. Like most reptiles, a gradient is preferred to allow the animal to regulate its own temperature behaviorally.
If the enclosure is indoors, a basking site ensures ample heat and temps can approach 37.5 °C (100 °F). Lighting cycles should be kept on 12 on/12 off basis in order to replicate the day/night cycle.


Water should be, at MINIMUM, deep enough for them to fully submerge, and long enough for them to freely swim. A canister filtration system is easiest to ensure water quality, but frequent water changes can also be utilized. Natural aquatic plants will help with filtration, cover and aesthetics. Logs over/in the water are great for them to climb on and hide behind. Adding minnows or aquatic insects can keep your animal active and mentally engaged.


The amount of food needed depends on temperature and age of animal. Young animals have an amazing appetite and can consume prey daily. Older animals tend to feed on larger items and less frequently. Feeding regimes, however, are dependent on diet. A diverse diet is BEST!!!
Some items include:
Hatchlings: Insects, wild minnows, snails, pinky mice, small pieces of meat, Mazuri Croc Chow.
Juveniles: Small fish, snails, mice, chicken hearts, pieces of meat, Mazuri Croc Chow
Adults: Fish, snails, rats, quail, chicken, beef, Mazuri Croc Biscuits.


All crocodilians should be handled with care and respect. Hatchlings may not pose a threat to humans, but a bite is stressful to them and can cause unnecessary health issues due to the stress. Even with dwarf caiman, juveniles and adults can cause severe lacerations and even wounds that require reconstructive surgery for more severe bites. Heavy welding gloves are used by many keepers for handling, but these can cause a loss in tactile ability of the keeper and thus an accident, so take care. Take precautions to not only protect yourself if you need to catch-up an animal, but also the crocodilian. For small animals, refrain from grabbing them by the tips of their tails or by one leg. Also minimize the amount of time you put weight or pressure on an animal. Placing a wet towel over their heads can make catch-ups easier and reduces stress in the animals. Always try to reduce the amount of time the animal is restrained to the lowest while ensuring everyone’s safety.


Cleaning regimes are based on individual setups, but 1/week is a minimum standard. Some diets necessitate more frequent cleaning as they can be smelly, oily and/or dissolve quickly. Algae growth is not a health issue, but can be unsightly for some enclosures. Because these animals are semi-aquatic, cleaning chemicals must be either nontoxic/noncaustic or rinsed extremely well. Again, a canister filtration system may be the easiest way to ensure water quality and least time consuming.

Potential Health Problems

Crocodilians are extremely hardy and most health problems are similar to other reptiles, and are typically due to incorrect diet or housing.
Metabolic Bone Disorders/Osteomalacia – due to insufficient bone (available calcium) content in the diet and/or insufficient UV. Causes scoliosis of the vertebral column, and soft/rubber jaw and thin/brittle teeth. Increase whole prey items in diet, supplement with bone meal and/or increase UV exposure.
Lethargy – commonly due to low temps or poor diet. Increase temperature and/or diet.
Gout – due to feeding at low temperatures or overfeeding thus providing an excess of protein in the blood stream, which the kidneys cannot process. Rectify diet by reducing and/or increase temperature.
Eye Issues – due to water quality/cleaning chemicals or injury from cage mates. Use nontoxic/noncaustic chemicals. Place more cover, hides or visual barriers in the enclosure.
General Wounds – commonly due to shared housing with other specimens. Place more cover, hides or visual barriers in enclosure.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) Deficiency – due to feeding large amounts of frozen fish, seafood or goldfish. Feed a varied diet, supplement with Vitamin B1 or Vitamin E.

Recommended Book


Shawn Heflick

The information contained in this care sheet reflect the opinions and methods of the mentioned breeder, based on their expertise and long-established experience.